When blogging for business, you’ve likely been focusing on the main column of your blog where your articles (posts) are displayed, not giving much thought to your blog sidebar.
The blog sidebar is the narrower column that’s usually on the right, and this is where readers find links to older posts you’ve published. These links help you reach two important goals:
- Give readers the specific help they need, solidifying their perception of you as a knowledgeable – and generous – expert
- Encourage readers to spend longer on your site, deepening their trust and sense of relationship with you, and increasing the likelihood they will click to learn more about your products and services
Most blog design templates display your recent posts by default in the sidebar, but not always in the most effective way.
Let’s look at the two most common ways to link to your older posts, and why I prefer one over the other. I’ll also give you my seven best practices for listing blog categories in your sidebar.
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Option #1: List your blog categories by name (the method I recommend)
Blog categories help you organize your blogging into the specific issues your ideal clients want to know more about, and the topics you want people to associate with you and your business.
When you display a list of your blog’s categories in the sidebar, you show that you have knowledge, experience and skill with these topics.
7 best practices for blog category lists
- Reveal each category name – Don’t hide your categories in a drop-down menu or people will only see the breadth of your expertise if they click on the non-descript “Select Category” box (and who would want to click on that?).
- Name your categories consistently – This includes length, word tense, and capitalization. So if you have one category about cleaning and one category about cooking, call them “Cleaning Tips” and “Cooking Tips,” rather than naming one of them “How to Cook [or Clean].” I use title case in category titles (capitalize each word).
- Incorporate relevant keywords in your category names – Always think of your readers first, and use everyday language they would recognize and use themselves. Then, you can apply your keyword research to tweak these terms for search engine optimization.
- Order your categories – By default some content management systems (CMS) like WordPress will display categories in the order you add new content to them. This is not usually the most meaningful order, nor is it particularly helpful for someone looking for information on your site. Your web developer can easily customize this with plugins or by creating a custom menu or category widget with links to each of your category archive pages. I recommend either:
- Alphabetical order – People will instantly realize how to scan the list to find what they need.
- Importance – Show people what they can expect from your blog by listing your top categories first.
- Hide post numbers at first – You have the option to display how many posts you’ve published in each category, usually in parentheses after the category name. I recommend hiding this until you’ve built up several posts in every category. At that point you can add them, if you wish, which will demonstrate your consistency.